Singapore Cup champions Home United face a daunting trip to the Middle East later this month after they lost to Thai club Chonburi FC 2-1 in a lively AFC Cup Group G encounter at the Bishan Stadium on Tuesday.
Two goals from Pipob On-Mo and Noppanon Kachaplayuk were enough to claim top spot in the group although Indra Sahdan Daud pulled one back late to ensure a tense finale.
The Protectors boss Lee Lim-Saeng admitted that his side initially would have preferred to avoid this result and take home advantage into the next round rather than travel to the Middle East.
"It will be difficult for us to progress because we have to travel to the Middle East to play in the Round of 16," he explained.
"We have played better on our home ground this year and fatigue will also be a factor for us because it is a long trip and we also have to play games in the S-League and the Singapore Cup in the next few weeks."
He added: "I congratulate Chonburi but I thought that our players worked very hard tonight and there is no way I can blame them for the result. I take full responsibility for it."
Meanwhile, Chonburi coach Withaya Laohakul still felt that there was room for improvement by his side despite being happy with his young players' performance.
"I’m not really that satisfied with our performance tonight. It seemed that players were more afraid not to lose because we had not been able to win an away win in this competition before tonight," said Withaya.
"However, I am very happy with how our young players did and I feel that the future is very bright for them.
"They may still be lacking in experience and decision-making skills but I believe that if they can show the right attitude they can challenge our more senior players for a place on the first team."
Both Home United and Chonburi have been qualified for the round of 16. The Sharks completed an unbeaten group stage campaign in top spot with 14 points, while the Protectors claimed the runners-up place with 10 points.
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